Buffalo horn limb tip overlays build along

horn tip close upHere’s a build along for adding those sexy buffalo horn overlays to your limb tips. I think they look great and make a good bow look even better. There’s just something about polished horn on a trad bow that makes it look really professional.

Adding layers of horn, antler, or linen phenolic to your limb tips will make your bow limb tips more durable for use with high performance strings, stronger to avoid scratches and denting by rough use while hunting, plus…they just look fantastic. Horn tips are good for both an old bow needing tip repairs or for that new bow you are making. They look good and work great on all types of bows: self bows, wood laminate bows, and fiberglass bows. They are simple to install yourself and this build along will show you how.

First you have to get some overlay material. One way might be to catch your own wild water buffalo so you can collect his horns, saw them up, and grind them into usable pieces, or you can simply get them like I do and buy them from Ebay as “knife scale” blanks. Click here to read the related post named Knife Scales for Longbow Tips. These Ebay “horns” come already sawed and ground into small planks. They usually cost about $8 to $15 depending on the size and color. Most of them are various shades of brown or black, but I also bought some that were a beautiful reddish color with streaks. I like the ones with streaks the best because they look really nice when finished. Most are about 1-1/2″ wide by 3 or 4″ long, and 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick. These are the perfect size for making tip overlays. I can usually get four limb tip overlays out of each scale. Since they are sold in pairs, that means you can get enough for four bows out of an $8 dollar pair. That seems like a good price to me. Probably the thing I like best about buying them this way is that they are already cut and ground so I don’t have to do it. Just the thought of holding raw, weirdly-shaped horn, antler or bone with my fingers while running them through the band saw really freaks me out. I don’t care to cut off any of my fingers just to get some all natural, primitive material!

>Click on each photo to enlarge it.<

Cutting horn knife scale

Before cutting, rough up the gluing surface of the knife scale with 50 grit sand paper. I just rub it on the top of the belt sander (with the sander turned off and unplugged of course). Use a hack saw to cut the scale into four, bow tip size pieces, roughly 1/2″ wide x 1/4″ thick x 2″ to 2-1/2″ long. I put sandpaper under it and clamped it down really tight to keep it from sliding. Also sand a flat surface of the limb tip on the belt sander. I often do this by hand so it is easier to control then touch it up by hand with a sanding block.

glued and clamped

Spread Smooth-On epoxy on both the horn overlay material and the prepared bow limb tip. Let it dry under a warm heat lamp for 24 hours.

grinding off the rough edges

After the glue is dry, I use a spindle sander to grind off the dried glue that squeezed out and smooth off the rough edges. By keeping the belly of the limb on top it is easy to keep from grinding off too much. You can also use a file or rasp for this process.

tapering the overlay on the back side of the limb

The spindle sander works really well for tapering the overlay. Just be very careful not to grind into the back of the limb. You can smooth that later with sand paper.

rough shaping finished

The rough shaping is finished: smoothed on the sides and rounded off a bit on the corners and ends.

marking lines for the string grooves

For the string grooves, make a pencil mark 1″ from the tip, then another line about 1-5/8″ in from the tip, then draw a diagonal line for the groove as shown.

lines all of the way around

This shows the lines going all of the way around the belly of the limb tip.

cutting the back groove

Use a 1/8″ to 3/16″ chain saw file (a 5/32″ file is perfect) to cut the string groove straight across the back of the tip.

cutting the groove on the side

Then file the grooves on the sides, and round off the corners to make the groove into a tear drop shape around the tip.

sanding and shaping the limb tip

Next, use coarse sand paper to shape the tip into a bullet shape. Use two hands to pull the paper from side to side like shining a shoe. I like to put fiberglass reinforced straping tape on the back of the sand paper to keep it from wearing out and tearing. This photo only shows one hand because my other was holding the camera…lol.

shaping the tip

More shaping of the tip with the spindle sander.

Even more shaping of the tip with the spindle sander.

Even more shaping of the tip with the spindle sander.

touching it up with sand paper by hand

Touching it up with sand paper by hand. When using polished knife scales, make sure to rough up all of the polished surfaces before spraying or sealing the bow so the varnish will stick to the overlay. Smooth the tip and overlay with 220 grit sand paper and it is ready to seal and/or spray with varnish.

Jim Thorne

Bowyer and author at Build Your Own Bow!
Jim Thorne has been making bows since the late 1980s. With his creative, yet down-to-earth writing style, he has helped many bowyers learn how to “build your own bow.”

Latest posts by Jim Thorne (see all)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook

Get this FREE special report...

"Easy Alignment of Recurve Bows"

Learn how to align your recurve bow in 10 minutes with my four step process for centering the nocks and sanding the sides. Set up even your first bow with ease and confidence!

Enter your email below...